THE CIRCLE AND THE SQUARE
“I don’t believe that artists change the world at all. I think that artists
are part of a social change movement. And they offer charismatic
and participatory help. And my projects are really good for building
capacity, in a person or in a group of people. So we want them both
to understand their relationship, past, present and future to this
space, [and] that they have some role in redevelopment and
regeneration.” – Suzanne Lacy, a-n
The Circle and the Square is a multipart film installation that explores the relations between the white and Pakistani communities who live in the area of Pendle, Lancashire. Skilled textile workers of these different communities used to work side-by-side in the cotton-weaving mill of Brierfield but after the mill’s closure, the area lost a common meeting ground, resulting in the present-day situation in which former employees still live locally but cease to mix. The work is the culmination of a two-year project, commissioned by Super Slow Way, which Suzanne Lacy created in collaboration with the people of Pendle in Northwest England, and local organisations In Situ, The Free Spiritual Centre, Building Bridges Pendle and Brierfield Action in the Community.
The film installation documents a three-day performance that took place in September 2016 when the Brierfield Mill, a cotton mill sitting in disrepair since its closure in 2007, was once again open to the community. Volunteers led tours of the mill, interviewed residents on the past and future of the region, and organised a mill-workers’ reunion and other events. The project culminated in a day-long performance featuring Dhikr chanting and Shape Note Singing. The Circle and the Square represents the work of many residents in the community including conversations, collaborations, organisational capacity-building, and the largest gathering at the mill since its doors were closed, as 500 residents sat down to dinner together.
Exploring the intertwined histories of labour and migration in north-west England, the installation continues with a video projection featuring two former millworkers describing their experiences working in the mills, a timeline, and a behind the scenes production documentary.
The Circle and the Square, 2016 - performance, video installation, two-year project, three-day performance, one-week video installation
Courtesy the artist
°1945 Wasco, California, USA
Suzanne Lacy is internationally renowned as a pioneer in the field of socially engaged and public art. Her installations, videos, and performances have dealt with issues of sexual violence, rural and urban poverty, incarceration, gender identity, labor, and aging. Working collaboratively within traditions of fine art performance and community organizing, Lacy has realized large-scale projects in London, Brooklyn, Medellin, Los Angeles, Quito, Northwest England, Madrid and, most recently, along the Irish Border, exploring local reactions to Brexit. Her work has been exhibited a.o. at Tate Modern, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Whitney Museum, the New Museum and P.S. 1 in New York, and The Bilbao Museum in Spain. In 2019 she had a career retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and at Yerba Buena Art Center, and in 2020 at the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Seville, Spain. She has received fellowships from the Rockefeller Bellagio residency program, the Guggenheim Foundation, The Henry Moore Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts and most recently the James H. Zumberge Faculty Research and Innovation Fund from the University of Southern California. Also known for her writing and academic career, Lacy edited Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art and is author of Leaving Art: Writings on Performance, Politics, and Publics, 1974-2007. She holds an MFA from California Institute of the Arts and a PhD from Robert Gordon University in Scotland. She is currently a professor at the Roski School of Art and Design at the University of Southern California and is a resident artist at 18th Street Arts Center. She lives and works in Los Angeles, USA.